Friday, August 03, 2007
Anybody smell anything wrong with this? Why would an investigator write a General an e-mail that says "IF THE CIRCUMSTANCES... BECOME PUBLIC."?
Here's my question... If there was no cover up.... then why would Maj. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal write to General Abizaid "IF the circumstances of Corporal Tillman's death becomes public."???
Shouldn't the Officer who was INVESTIGATING the case who KNEW THAT FRATRICIDE WAS STRONGLY SUSPECTED have written WHEN THE CIRCUMSTANCES of Corporal Tillman's death BECOME PUBLIC" instead of IF?
Using the word IF tells me that he knew they were trying to cover this up. And now they've hung a lower ranking official out to dry, just like they did with Abu Ghraib. Jesus these guys are crooks.
Who Covered Up Pat Tillman's Murder?
Truth About Tillman ... Murder's Not 'Friendly Fire'
Posted August 2, 2007
Once again, the Administration is pulling the old magician's trick of misdirection, this time in the Pat Tillman case. And once again, the press is falling for it. Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers focused on "what they knew and when" -- to borrow the Watergate phrase -- rather than the core issue at the heart of the Pat Tillman matter, which is this:
Pat Tillman was almost certainly murdered, and fratricide is not "friendly fire."
Yet a Google News search on the terms "Tillman" and "friendly fire" yielded 1,044 hits today, all from the last 24 hours. That's after the facts behind the fratricide are widely known - and after a number of clues that suggest the entire command structure, from the White House on down, concealed a murder from the public and took no steps to investigate it.
There's your story.
Friendly fire is commonly understood to mean the accidental death of a U. S. soldier through weapons fired by U.S. or allied troops. (See this definition.) The facts in the Tillman case make friendly fire highly unlikely. He died from three bullet holes grouped together in his forehead, fired from a M-16 that was no more than ten yards away.
Three bullet holes. In the forehead. From a M-16. That was ten yards away.
That's not "friendly fire." That's murder. (Unless Cpl. Tillman stood up in the path of another soldier's fire, took three hits precisely in the forehead, then fell before being hit again.)
As abhorrent as it was for the Administration to delay telling the family, the handling of the fratricide question was even worse. A killer's trail went cold. Now we may never know the truth.
As for the narrative that Rumsfeld and Myers offered yesterday, let's look at it in detail - together with the known facts:
1. Pat Tillman dies. Medical examiners request a fratricide investigation sometime thereafter. Their request is denied.
2. Gen. McChrystal sends a cable to Gen. Abizaid and another general on April 22 urging them to notify the President of this probable fratricide "in order to preclude any unknowing statements by our country's leaders which might cause embarrassment if the circumstances of Cpl. Tillman's death becomes public."
3. Gen.Abizaid claims he didn't receive it for 10 or 12 days, because he was in Iraq. (They don't have email, or even secure pouches for urgent memos?) Defense Department records later show that Gen. Abizaid was not in Iraq, but was actually in Qatar and Afghanistan - where the killing occurred - during that 10 to 12 days.
4. Gen. Myers learns the true nature of Cpl. Tillman's death in late April, yet - according to his testimony - did not feel the need to inform either the Secretary of Defense or the President.
5. Military records show that dozens of officers knew of the true nature of the Lieutenant's death within days, yet senior officers and Pentagon officials still maintain they didn't know for weeks. (Surprisingly, they did not undertake a massive review of military procedures in order to determine how such a massive series of communications failures could occur - one that eerily affected every single senior officer with responsibility for this case simultaneously.)
6. The military continues to press the story that Tillman was killed while courageously leading a counterattack in an Afghan mountain pass. (Nice poetic touch, that "mountain pass" - good for recruitment.)
7. A national memorial service is held for Cpl Tillman several days later. The President and others talk about Cpl. Tillmans heroism in that mythical mountain pass - yet Gen. Myers, per his own testimony, still felt no need to inform either the SecDef or the President .
8. Rumsfeld says he was not told the truth until "some time after May 20," or approximately a month after Gen. Myers learned of the incident. Yet he seems strangely undisturbed to learn that the truth was known six weeks earlier and he wasn't informed.
9. Neither Rumsfeld nor the President felt the need to correct the record publicly upon learning the truth.
10. It wasn't until reporters filed a Freedom of Information Act that the following information became public on July 27: ""Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime."
Let's say it again, to be very clear: The White House and Pentagon withheld the facts about this killing until they were legally forced to reveal them months later by Freedom of Information laws. And they never ordered a criminal investigation.
As for the testimony by Myers and Rumsfeld: What they have described is a command structure that was brutally indifferent to the situation on the ground and uninterested in pursuing a murder. Gen. Myers, if he is to be believed, allowed the President and Secretary of Defense to pay tribute to a man as if he had died in combat, knowing full well their words were untrue.
Is that plausible, with everything we know about Rumsfeld? Remember, this is the micromanager who hectored generals on little details, arrogantly told them he knew more than they did about the military, and issued regular memos to a wide range of Pentagon personnel on a variety of topics, great and small.
We are also supposed to believe that Rumsfeld was so uninvolved in the human issues his troops faced that he wasn't informed of the facts on this case - and that once he found out, he was unconcerned about the delay in telling him the facts. And that the President wasn't disturbed enough to order an investigation into the killing. Nor did he or Rumsfeld inform the family, or the nation, that they had been misled - at a hero's funeral.
As the conservatives used to say in the 90's: Character matters. And that's if they're telling the truth ... Can you imagine what we could learn about their character if, as is very possible, they're still lying?
And make no mistake, the beat goes on:
"What doesn't make sense,'' (Rep) Waxman said, is that while there were hundreds of e-mails among 97 White House officials in the days after Tillman's death, there were none after the Pentagon announced he had been killed by friendly fire."
Waxman has concluded, reasonably enough, that it's very likely there is still an ongoing and systematic White House attempt to hide the truth about Cpl. Tillman's death. Nevertheless, the main media narrative appears to be "Rummy looked great and did well." And that Pat Tillman died from "friendly fire."
What else can anyone say? Except, of course, to thank Cpl. Tillman for his sacrifice - and promise to find the truth for his memory.
(Contribute here to the Pat Tillman Foundation)
It’s almost too depressing to mention again, but let’s recap the Pat Tillman revelations from Army medical examiners and internal Pentagon reports released last week and find out what happens when famous football stars turned Army Heroes become anti-war critics:
- He was shot three times in the forehead at close range with an American M-16.
- This was after he was shot in the chest, legs and hand.
- And this was after he screamed to the “friendlies” that he was Pat Tillman and please stop shooting him.
- But they didn’t; they executed him.
- They were Americans.
- There wasn’t even an “enemy” around; not only was nobody shot by “enemy fire,” no equipment was shot by “enemy fire.”
- “Members of Tillman’s unit burned his body armor and uniform in an apparent attempt to hide the fact that he was killed by friendly fire.”
- Army medical examiners tried to get a criminal investigation opened, but they were shut down.
- The Army brass who conspired to shut down any criminal investigation into the U.S. assassination of Pat Tillman sent “congratulatory e-mails” to each other after shutting down the snoops.
- The Pentagon heavily promoted Tillman’s enlistment and service as both a recruitment tool and a domestic propaganda tool.
- The Pentagon maintained for long after his murder that Tillman died in combat, finally admitting to his family that “friendly fire” killed him — which wasn’t exactly true, either.
- Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kauzlarich, who commanded Tillman’s base in Afghanistan at the time of his assassination, dismissed Tillman’s family’s attempts to find out what happened. Why? Because Pat Tillman was an atheist, like his family, so they were having “a hard time letting it go.”
- In his writings — Tillman wrote constantly in letters and diaries and e-mails — the NFL star who became an Army Ranger after 9/11 had concluded the Afghanistan War was fake and the Iraq War was a criminal setup.
- The Pentagon still has his diary that he kept with him in Afghanistan, where he was killed, and they won’t release it to his family.
- Tillman had even arranged a meeting with anti-war icon Noam Chomsky about how to go public with a veterans-against-the-war movement.
- Such a movement would’ve had an interesting effect on the Iraq Occupation and the then-upcoming 2004 election; Tillman had already been encouraging his fellow soldiers to vote against Bush.
- Just today, Donald Rumsfeld refused to testify on the subject of Tillman’s assassination before Congress on Wednesday.
- White House Counsel Fred Fielding has, of course, already “refused to issue certain documents to the committee because of executive privilege.”
- What is the White House doing with “certain documents” about Pat Tillman’s murder?
- Says Pat Tillman Sr.: “The administration clearly was using this case for its own political reasons. This cover-up started within minutes of Pat’s death, and it started at high levels. This is not something that people in the field do.”
Is it just me or does anyone else find it odd that Al Qaeda videos are photoshopped?
Researcher's Analysis of al Qaeda Images Reveals Surprises -- UPDATED
Neal Krawetz, a researcher and computer security consultant, gave an interesting presentation today at the BlackHat security conference in Las Vegas about analyzing digital photographs and video images for alterations and enhancements.
Using a program he wrote (and provided on the conference CD-ROM) Krawetz could print out the quantization tables in a JPEG file (that indicate how the image was compressed) and determine the last tool that created the image -- that is, the make and model of the camera if the image is original or the version of Photoshop that was used to alter and re-save the image.
Comparing that data to the metadata embedded in the image he could determine if the photo was original or had been re-saved or altered. Then, using error level analysis of an image he could determine what were the last parts of an image that were added or modified.
Error level analysis involves re-saving an image at a known error rate (90%, for example), then subtracting the re-saved image from the original image to see every pixel that changed and the degree to which it changed. The modified versions will indicate a different error level than the original image.
You can see the difference in the two pictures (below right) of a bookshelf. Krawetz added some books and a toy dinosaur to the original image -- both of which show up clearly in the second picture after he's completed the error level analysis.
But more interesting were the examples Krawetz gave of al Qaeda images. Krawetz took an image from a 2006 al Qaeda video of Ayman al-Zawahiri (above right), a senior member of the terrorist organization. The image shows al-Zawahiri sitting in front of a desk and banner with writing on it. But after conducting his error analysis Krawetz was able to determine that al-Zawahiri's image was superimposed in front of the background -- and was most likely videotaped in front of a black sheet.
Krawetz was also able to determine that the writing on the banner behind al-Zawahiri's head was added to the image afterward. In the second picture above showing the results of the error level analysis, the light clusters on the image indicate areas of the image that were added or changed. The subtitles and logos in the upper right and lower left corners (IntelCenter is an organization that monitors terrorist activity and As-Sahab is the video production branch of al Qaeda)
were all added at the same time all have the same error level, while the banner writing was added at a different time has a different error level , likely around the same time that al-Zawahiri was added, Krawetz says. (See 2nd update below.)
Even more interesting is the analysis he conducted on another 2006 video image of Azzam al-Amriki showing him in a white room with a desk, computer and some books in the background. Error level analysis shows that the books in the lower right-hand corner of the image have a different error level than the items in the rest of the image, suggesting they were added later. In fact the books register the same error level as the subtitles and As-Sahab logo.
Further analysis also shows that the books have a different color range than the rest of the image, indicating that they came from an alternate source. Krawetz wasn't able to determine what the books were but says if they were religious books, they might have simply been added to lend authority and reverence to the video. It's also possible, he says, that such details could be added to a picture to send a message in code to al Qaeda operatives.
UPDATE: For those of you who asked for Krawetz's program, you can view the source code here.
You can also view his BlackHat presentation here (PDF). For those of you who think the software is better used to catch media manipulations of photos and video, Krawetz did present examples of these in his talk.
And to "Ann" who commented that she doubts al Qaeda would put subtitles on a video, As-Sahab, the logo in the lower left corner of the two al Qaeda videos is the production arm of al Qaeda. Yes, the organization has its own media production team.
2ND UPDATE: I quoted Krawetz as saying that the evidence indicates that the IntelCenter and As-Sahab logos were added to the al-Zawahiri video at the same time. Ben Venzke of IntelCenter says his organization didn't add the As-Sahab logo. He points out that just because the error levels are the same for two items in an image, that doesn't prove they were added at the same time, only that the compression was the same for both items when they were added.
3rd UPDATE: I was finally able to reach Neal Krawetz at the BlackHat conference to respond to the questions about the IntelCenter and As-Sahab logos (Krawetz doesn't have a cell phone on him so finding him at the conference took a while). He now says that the error levels on the IntelCenter and As-Sahab logos are different and that the IntelCenter logo was added after the As-Sahab logo. However, in a taped interview I conducted with him after his presentation, he said the logos were the same error levels and that this indicated they were added at the same time. Additionally, after I'd written the first blog entry about his presentation, I asked him to read it to make sure everything was correct. He did so while sitting next to me and said it was all correct. He apologizes now for the error and the confusion it caused.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
How much will the Iraq War Cost? William D. Nordhaus got it right in 2003.
Remember: White House Economic Adviser Lawrence Lindsay was fired by Bush in 2002 for forecasting that that the war will cost the U.S. Treasury between $100 billion and $200 billion.
Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels said that war could cost between $50 billion and $60 Billion, after Lindsay made his remarks.
Anybody smell a pattern of trying to sell a war on the cheap?
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
by David Neiwert
We've known for some time that Jonah Goldberg is on the verge of publishing a tome titled Liberal Fascism, though its original subtitle has apparently been pushed around a bit -- it's now "The Totalitarian Temptation from Hegel to Whole Foods" -- along with its actual publication date, as Roger Ailes has duly noted (Slate's Timothy Noah has more). Of course, it's an absurdly oxymoronic title, a hilariously doomed project from the start, and a brilliant example of conservatives' projection strategy.
Indeed, Goldberg delivers the real proof of that particular pudding today with a Los Angeles Times column arguing for a fitness test of some sort before citizens be allowed to vote.
The subhed pretty much sums up the illogic at play here:
- We test immigrants before they can go to the polls; why not everyone else?
Actually, we test immigrants not merely before they go to the polls, but before they can become citizens, with all the rights that entails. And among the foremost of those rights is the right to vote.
The ensuing inanity of Goldberg's argument -- leaping over whole categories of logic to find some reason why we should limit voters' access to the polls -- is crystallized in his closing paragraphs:
- Maybe the emphasis on getting more people to vote has dumbed-down our democracy by pushing participation onto people uninterested in such things. Maybe our society would be healthier if politicians aimed higher than the lowest common denominator. Maybe the opinions of people who don't know the first thing about how our system works aren't the folks who should be driving our politics, just as people who don't know how to drive shouldn't have a driver's license.
Instead of making it easier to vote, maybe we should be making it harder. Why not test people about the basic functions of government? Immigrants have to pass a test to vote; why not all citizens?
And who, exactly, gets to decide who is fit to vote and who is not? What's a passing mark on Goldberg's fitness test?
But that's only scratching the surface of what's wrong here. What Goldberg conveniently omits from his argument is that this sort of thing has been tried before. They called them literacy tests, and they were used throughout the South and other states as a way to deny African-Americans the right to vote after the Civil War. They were a fundamental component of the so-called "Jim Crow" laws that were only overturned in the 1960s, and a complement to the reign of eliminationist terror that kept blacks oppressed and impoverished for more than a century after they were freed.
Moreover, one would think a Republican would understand voting is the fundamental aspect of citizenship in a Republic -- it's the source of a citizen's franchisement within that Republic. It isn't merely a privilege, such as obtaining a driver's license. It is a right endowed to every citizen, and it is only revoked for reasons of criminality. Indeed, it is one of the defining rights of citizenship. Goldberg is essentially arguing for disposing of people's rights as citizens if they fail his test.
Creating and enforcing a fitness test on citizens before they can be allowed to vote can be described in no other term than as fascist.
You'll recall, perhaps, that scholars of fascism such as Robert O. Paxton and Roger Griffin have remarked on the fascist's insistence that he represents the true national identity; this becomes part of the complex of rage and violence by which others are deemed unfit to enjoy the rights of citizenship and polite society and then, gradually, eliminated.
Goldberg's proposal would be a clear first step in that direction, since its essence is to deny voting rights to those deemed uninformed enough to count. That it resembles so closely the political program of the old postwar Ku Klux Klan -- identified by Paxton as the original fascist organization -- is not mere coincidence.
Conservatives are becoming desperate. Probably mass disenfranchisement is their only hope for retaining much of the vestiges of power after 2008, so Goldberg conveniently floats a balloon like this.
Too bad it has a little smiley face with a Hitler mustache on it.
[P.S. Can someone explain to me why the editors of the LA Times editorial page thought the above photo was an appropriate illustration for Goldberg's piece?]
[Hat tip to Ray C.]
Jesus. Next to W, Tom Tancredo might be the Stupidest Man on the Face of the Earth.
| || IowaPolitics.com: Tancredo says threat of attack on holy sites would deter terrorism|
By Chris Dorsey
OSCEOLA -- Followers of radical Islam must be deterred from committing a nuclear attack on U.S. soil, Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo said Tuesday morning, saying that as president he would take drastic measures to prevent such attacks.
"If it is up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland of that nature would be followed by an attack on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina," the GOP presidential candidate said. "That is the only thing I can think of that might deter somebody from doing what they would otherwise do. If I am wrong fine, tell me, and I would be happy to do something else. But you had better find a deterrent or you will find an attack. There is no other way around it. There have to be negative consequences for the actions they take. That's the most negative I can think of." (Editor's Note: Is it just me or does Tom Tancredo not understand that pissing off 1 Billion Muslims by Nuking Mecca in retaliation for the actions of a small number of terrorists is a stupid fucking idea?)
"Beyond the loss of human life and devastation, it would cause a worldwide economic collapse," Tancredo said of a nuclear attack on U.S soil. "If all of a sudden we are not a consuming engine of the world, the producing nations will collapse also. That is what they want, that is what they are looking for, to end Western civilization as we know it."
Tancredo said there was no such deterrent in place right now.
"The president and this country better figure out exactly what it can do to deter, I underline deter, the next attack," Tancredo said. "Deter, not just respond, deter, or else I assure you we are going to suffer. The extent of which of course I do not know. I know what they are planning and I know what they want. I do not know if they are going to be capable of doing this tomorrow, the next day or a month from now. I know right now at this moment there is nothing that deters them."
Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff said earlier this month he had a "gut feeling" that nation could fall under another terrorist attack. Tancredo said it is possible potential terrorists are residing in this country.
Tancredo told the crowd officials recently broke up a illegal immigrant smuggling ring and discovered people of Middle Eastern descent were paying $25,000 to $50,000 to gain entry into this country. (Editor's Note: Where did Tom get this figure? Who needs evidence?)
"You have to ask yourselves, why would anybody pay $25,000 to $50,000 to be smuggled into the United States?" Tancredo asked. "It's not to work over here at the Quick Stop or the 7-11. If you pay $50,000 to be smuggled into the United States or somebody is paying that for you, it's probably for some other purpose, not to just get a job that no American will take."
Outsourcing Intelligence: How Bush Gets His National Intelligence from Private Companies
By R.J. Hillhouse, The Nation
Posted on July 31, 2007, Printed on August 1, 2007
The unprecedented involvement of private corporations in the Iraq War has been well documented. Private soldiers working for Blackwater USA, Triple Canopy and others provide security services against military-level threats, and they regularly engage in combat.
But what is not generally known is that the secret side of the Iraq War and the larger "war on terror" is also conducted by private corporations, fielding private spies. The reach of these corporations has extended into the Oval Office. Corporations are heavily involved in creating the analytical products that underlie the nation's most important and most sensitive national security document, the President's Daily Brief (PDB).
Over the past six years, a quiet revolution has occurred in the intelligence community toward wide-scale outsourcing to corporations and away from the long-established practice of keeping operations in US government hands, with only select outsourcing of certain jobs to independently contracted experts. Key functions of intelligence agencies are now run by private corporations. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) revealed in May that 70 percent of the intelligence budget goes to contractors.
For all practical purposes, effective control of the NSA is with private corporations, which run its support and management functions. As the Washington Post's Walter Pincus reported last year, more than 70 percent of the staff of the Pentagon's newest intelligence unit, CIFA (Counterintelligence Field Activity), is made up of corporate contractors.
Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) lawyers revealed at a conference in May that contractors make up 51 percent of the staff in DIA offices. At the CIA, the situation is similar. Between 50 and 60 percent of the workforce of the CIA's most important directorate, the National Clandestine Service (NCS), responsible for the gathering of human intelligence, is composed of employees of for-profit corporations.
Employees of private corporations -- "green badgers," in CIA parlance -- provide sensitive services ranging from covert CIA operations in Iraq to recruiting and running spies. They also gather human intelligence on behalf of the CIA and analyze it, creating intelligence products used by the intelligence community and also shared with other branches of government.
Corporate intelligence professionals from companies such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Booz Allen Hamilton, SAIC and others are thoroughly integrated into analytical divisions throughout the intelligence community, including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It is the ODNI that produces the final document of the President's Daily Brief.
The President's Daily Brief is an aggregate of the most critical analyses from the sixteen agencies that make up the intelligence community. Staff at the ODNI sift through reports to complete the PDB, which is presented to the President every day as the US government's most accurate and most current assessment of priority national security issues. It was the PDB that warned on August 6, 2001, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US."
It's true that the government pays for and signs off on the assessment, but much of the analysis and even some of the underlying intelligence-gathering is corporate. Knowledgeable members of the intelligence community tell me that corporations have so penetrated the intelligence community that it's impossible to distinguish their work from the government's.
Although the President's Daily Brief has the seal of the ODNI, it is misleading. To be accurate, the PDB would look more like NASCAR with corporate logos plastered all over it.
Concerned members of the intelligence community have told me that if a corporation wanted to insert items favorable to itself or its clients into the PDB to influence the US national security agenda, at this time it would be virtually undetectable. These companies have analysts and often intelligence collectors spread throughout the system and have the access to introduce intelligence into the system.
To take an extreme example, a company frustrated with a government that's hampering its business or the business of one of its clients could introduce or spin intelligence on that government's suspected collaboration with terrorists in order to get the White House's attention and potentially shape national policy.
Or, more subtly, a private firm could introduce concerns about a particular government to put heat on that government to shape its energy policy in a favorable direction.
To get us into the Iraq War, intelligence regarding alleged weapons of mass destruction had to be very artfully manipulated to short-circuit a formidable bureaucracy designed to prevent just such warping of intelligence. Due to the shift toward wide-scale industrial outsourcing in the intelligence community, even that fallible safeguard has been eroded.
Sources like "Curveball," the Iraqi informant who wrongly asserted the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and upon whom the CIA relied, are no longer needed. This is particularly frightening when one considers that the "war on terror" is fought by a $100 billion-plus industry that has a vested interest in its continuation.
The tools needed to close this vulnerability are available, and they can be found in the private sector. Existing techniques could be applied to monitor the intelligence community for any suspicious activity to insure that no corporation could manipulate US government policy in this way.
Closing the gaps is simply a matter of the Director of National Intelligence acknowledging the problem, then finding the political will and leadership to implement a solution. Unfortunately, it will probably take a public outcry to make this happen.
Coming Soon To America: Wal-Mart uses UNPAID teens as baggers in Mexico. Jesus Wal-Mart is Evil.
July 31, 2007 - Wal-Mart prides itself on cutting costs at home and abroad, and its Mexican operations are no exception. That approach has helped the Arkansas-based retail giant set a track record of spectacular success in the 16 years since it entered Mexico as a partner of the country’s then-leading retail-store chain. But some of the company’s practices have aroused concern among some officials and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that Wal-Mart is taking advantage of local customs to pinch pennies at a time when its Mexican operations have never been more profitable.
Wal-Mart is Mexico’s largest private-sector employer in the nation today, with nearly 150,000 local residents on its payroll. An additional 19,000 youngsters between the ages of 14 and 16 work after school in hundreds of Wal-Mart stores, mostly as grocery baggers, throughout Mexico—and none of them receives a red cent in wages or fringe benefits. The company doesn’t try to conceal this practice: its 62 Superama supermarkets display blue signs with white letters that tell shoppers: OUR VOLUNTEER PACKERS COLLECT NO SALARY, ONLY THE GRATUITY THAT YOU GIVE THEM. SUPERAMA THANKS YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING. The use of unsalaried youths is legal in Mexico because the kids are said to be “volunteering” their services to Wal-Mart and are therefore not subject to the requirements and regulations that would otherwise apply under the country’s labor laws. But some officials south of the U.S. border nonetheless view the practice as regrettable, if not downright exploitative. “These kids should receive a salary,” says Labor Undersecretary Patricia Espinosa Torres. “If you ask me, I don’t think these kids should be working, but there are cultural and social circumstances [in Mexico] rooted in poverty and scarcity.”
In a country where nearly half of the population scrapes by on less than $4 a day, any income source is welcome in millions of households, even if it hinges on the goodwill of a tipping customer. And Wal-Mart did not invent the bagger program that, as a written statement from the company notes, pre-dates the firm’s arrival in Mexico, nor is it alone within the country’s retail sector in benefiting from the toil of unpaid adolescents. But in Mexico City, for example, the 4,300 teenagers who work in Wal-Mart’s retail stores free of charge dwarf similar numbers laboring unpaid for Mexican competitors like Comercial Mexicana (715) and Gigante (427). Although Wal-Mart’s worldwide code of ethics expressly forbids any “associate” from working without compensation, the company’s Mexican subsidiary asserts that the grocery baggers “cannot be considered workers.” The Mexico City government’s top labor official dismisses that contention as so much corporate hogwash. “To my mind, that is not an accurate description because the bagger is providing a service on the store’s premises that benefits the company by serving the customer better,” argues Federal District Labor Secretary Benito Mirón Lince. “In economic terms, Wal-Mart does have the capability to pay the minimum wage [of less than $5 a day], and this represents an injustice.”
Certainly, Wal-Mart’s bottom line is healthy. Wal-Mart de Mexico reported net earnings of $1.148 billion in 2006 and $280 million in profits in the second quarter of this year, a 7 percent increase in real terms over the same period last year. Buoyed by the handsome bottom-line results of the preceding 12 months, Wal-Mart de Mexico Chief Executive Eduardo Solórzano announced plans in February to add 125 new stores and restaurants to its existing network of 893 retail establishments during the course of 2007. That ambitious expansion plan will represent new investment totaling nearly a billion dollars, according to company spokesmen.
And in its defense, Wal-Mart says it fully complies with a 1999 agreement covering the teenaged baggers that the Mexico City municipal government negotiated with the Supermarkets and Department Stores Association of Mexico. The company also says it goes beyond the obligations of that accord, awarding bonuses twice a year to baggers who maintain high grades in school and also providing accident insurance that covers the kids not only when they are on duty, but also when they are en route between home and workplace. The company’s written statement cited a study conducted by the Mexican government and a U.N. agency that found that teenagers participating in the baggers’ program were less likely to use illegal drugs than peers who panhandled or hawked merchandise on city streets.
Wal-Mart says the bagger program was designed “in accordance with the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) guidelines.” That’s questionable: Article 2 of the ILO’s Convention 138 specifically prohibits the employment of 14-year-old children. (When asked by NEWSWEEK specifically about this clause, a Wal-Mart spokesman said in a written response: "With respect to your questions about the ILO, I repeat that we subscribe to an agreement signed between the Supermarkets and Department Stores Association of Mexico and Mexican labor officials. I suggest you share your doubts with Mexican authorities as to whether the  accord [with the Mexico City municipal government] is in line with ILO guidelines.") A study conducted by three student researchers at the Autonomous University of Mexico documented violations of the 1999 agreement at a Wal-Mart Supercenter store in southern Mexico City. These included inadequate training and forcing youngsters to work a double shift, thereby exceeding the six-hour limit per day established by the accord. Then again, things could be a lot worse. In February 2005, Wal-Mart agreed to pay the U.S. Labor Department $135,540 in civil money penalties to settle charges of 24 child-labor violations. Some of the accusations involved minors who operated forklifts, chain saws and other potentially dangerous equipment. Stuffing groceries into plastic bags would seem considerably less hazardous.
Military Recruiters Target Latino Youth to fill body bags for the Bush/Cheney War Machine.
Latino teenagers, including illegal immigrants are being recruited into the military with false promises.
|By Deborah Davis||July 25, 2007|
In 1996, Jesus Alberto Suarez del Solar was a 13-year-old boy, up from Tijuana on a family shopping trip, when he stopped at a Marine Corps recruiting table at an open-air mall in Chula Vista, Calif.
Jesus had been an easy mark for the recruiter--a boy who fantasized that by joining the powerful, heroic U.S. Marines, he could help his own country fight drug lords. He gave the recruiter his address and phone number in Mexico, and the recruiter called him twice a week for the next two years, until he had talked Jesus into convincing his parents to move to California. Fernando and Rose Suarez sold their home and their laundry business and immigrated with their children to Escondido, where Jesus enrolled at a high school known for academic achievement. But the recruiter wanted him to transfer to a school for problem teenagers, since its requirements for graduation were lower and Jesus would be able to finish sooner. He was 17 and a half when he graduated from that school, still too young to enlist on his own, so his father co-signed the enlistment form, as the military requires for underage recruits.
Three years later, at the age of 20, his body was torn apart in Iraq by an American-made fragmentation grenade during the first week of the invasion. In the Pentagon's official Iraq casualty database, his death is number 74.
Now Jesus is in a cemetery in Escondido, and his parents, who blame each other for his death, are painfully and bitterly divorced. While his mother bears her loss as a private tragedy, Fernando, who has dual Mexican and American citizenship, is working tirelessly to protect other young immigrants from being manipulated by U.S. military recruiters--the way he wishes he had protected his son.
In the Iraq war, citizenship is being used as a recruiting tool aimed specifically at young immigrants, who are told that by enlisting, they will be able to quickly get citizenship for themselves (sometimes true, depending on what the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) branch of the Department of Homeland Security finds) and their entire families (not true; each family member has to go through a separate application process). Nevertheless, with the political pressures on Latino families growing daily under this administration, many young Latinos are unable to resist the offer, which immigrants' rights activists see as blatant exploitation of a vulnerable population.
From African American to Latino
Jesus, like the large majority of new military recruits, was signed up through the Delayed Entry Program (DEP), which operates in high schools, GED programs and home-schooling networks across the nation. The well-crafted messages on the DEP website have been in development ever since the draft ended and the all-volunteer military was initiated after Vietnam. The DEP's persuasion campaigns originally targeted black teenagers with the message that military service equaled jobs that promised equal treatment regardless of race. DEP recruiters were able to easily meet their quotas until the early '80s, when enlistment rates of young African Americans began to decline and the rates for Latinos began to rise for reasons the military did not understand. A 1995 article in Marketing Science, "The Navy Enlistment Marketing Experiment," noted that "a surprising development was the emergence of the Hispanic population as an important variable contributing to the pool of ... contracts. Further investigation of the phenomenon is warranted."
Over the next decade, the military commissioned a number of studies on the relationship between race and ethnicity and the "propensity to enlist." For example, the Youth Attitude Tracking Survey, conducted between 1975 and 1999 and published by the Defense Technical Information Center, found a correlation between the rising educational achievement of blacks and lower enlistment rates; and between the low educational achievement of Latinos (particularly if their first language was not English) and rising enlistment rates. As Latinos became a more important source of recruits, the Pentagon hired market research firms to design advertising campaigns that addressed the issues they cared most about--pride in family, children in school and citizenship.
Today, the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force recruitment campaigns focus largely on education and benefits to families. The Army's campaign, created by Cartel Impacto, a cutting-edge firm from San Antonio, uses the firm's proprietary "barrio anthropology" and grassroots "viral and guerilla marketing" techniques to "go deep into the neighborhoods and barrios" in order to tell Latino families how the military can help them have the kind of life they want in America. "We address the core issues of why they left their country in the first place," says a Cartel Impacto spokesperson, who did not want her name published. "You have to conduct your outreach carefully," she says, "using PTAs as an entry point," as well as "local Hispanic groups that the newly arrived would look to."
Recruit friends, earn bucks
These marketing campaigns support the work of recruiters who--as mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act--must have free access to students in every one of the country's public schools. Recruiters operating in high schools try to get children as young as 14 to sign up for the military's DEP, which allows them to finish high school before going on active duty. Under the program, these young "men and women," as recruiters are trained to call them, are targeted, tested, gifted, video-gamed, recruitment-faired and career-counseled into enlisting before they turn 18. They are also paid $2,000 for every friend they talk into signing up with them, and, until recently, were paid $50 for every name they brought in to a recruiter. The DEP website provides tips on how students can assist recruiters in signing up their friends. The student can:
- · Provide your recruiter with names and numbers of anyone you know who is considering joining the military.
- · Obtain the names and numbers of people who work with you or attend places you frequent and the best time to talk to them.
- · Obtain the names and numbers of friends or acquaintances who sit with you in classes.
- · Help your recruiter by screening his/her lists.
- · Accompany your recruiter to places your friends normally hang out and make introductions.
In addition to cash, students who help recruiters to enlist their friends are promoted to a higher military rank, from Private E-1 to Private E-2, even before they are out of high school. The rewards are commensurate with the quality of the friends they recruit, as measured by their friends' ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) scores. "You will get promoted to Private E-2," promises the DEP website, if your referrals lead to the enlistment of "one soldier who scores 50 or higher on the ASVAB," or "two soldiers who score 31-49." Private E-1s are paid $1,301 a month, while E-2s earn $1,458 per month. Further, getting a second high-scoring friend or two more low-scoring friends to enlist earns the student another promotion, to Private E-3, and kicks the entry pay up to $1,534 per month.
Another way DEPs can earn extra money is to volunteer for hazardous duty. Students who sign up to be in a combat unit, or to dismantle explosives, or to handle toxic chemicals, get an additional $150 per month on top of their basic pay. Volunteering for hazardous duty, however, is a relative concept. Since DEP recruits do not, by definition, have a college education, there are few other military occupations open to them, except if their ASVAB scores are high enough for them to qualify for advanced training. But with the greatest need in this war being combat soldiers--so much so that even highly trained Air Force personnel are being sent to work with Army ground troop units--the chances of any DEP recruit getting out of combat duty and its attendant hazards are slim. The ASVAB is also administered only in English; and any job requiring even a security clearance cannot be held by a non-citizen. The implications of these conditions for young immigrants can be deadly.
The Department of Defense's casualty database (http://icasualties.org) doesn't publicly break down the dead and injured by ethnic group, but a tally of Latino surnames found that between January 10 when the surge began and July 1, 20 percent of the 174 young people (aged 18-21) who died were likely to have been Latino (the military does not keep public data on the race or ethnicity of casualties). With the intensification of DEP recruiting efforts in largely Latino high schools since the invasion began, this is no surprise.
Legal illegals vs. illegal illegals
How many of these young Latino recruits are illegal immigrants? "Nobody knows," says Flavia Jimenez, an immigration policy analyst at the National Council of La Raza. "But what we do know is that recruiters may not be up to speed on everybody's legal status. ... We also know that a significant number of [illegals] have died in Iraq." The recruitment of illegal immigrants is particularly intense in Los Angeles, where 75 percent of the high school students are Latino. "A lot of our students are undocumented," says Arlene Inouye, a teacher at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, "and it's common knowledge that recruiters offer green cards." Inouye is the coordinator and founder of the Coalition Against Militarism in Our Schools (CAMS), a counter-recruitment organization that educates teenagers about deceptive recruiting practices. "The practice is pretty widespread all over the nation," she says, "especially in California and Texas. ... The recruiters tell them, 'you'll be helping your family.' "
Inouye referred me to Salvador Garcia, a student whose father had been deported, and who had been approached by a recruiter when he was a freshman at Garfield (He is now a senior). Garcia says the recruiter told him: "If you need papers, come and fight for us and we can get you some, and then you'll never have to mess with immigration." When he told the recruiter that he was born in this country, the recruiter responded, "Do you have anybody in your family that needs a green card, needs papers?" Salvador told him that his father, who had entered the country illegally from Mexico, had recently been deported. "If you join the military you can get your father back," the recruiter said. "It's not a problem, we can get him his papers and nobody will ever bother him again." Salvador almost signed the enlistment form right then, but says he was stopped by the realization of "how it's all connected--the war and Mexico and immigration." He is now active in the counter-recruitment movement.
Recruiters in other parts of the country are making the same promises. In Chicago, for example, Jorge, whose entire family was illegal, joined the military because a high school recruiter promised that he and every member of his family would get a green card. Jorge actually did get a green card while he was in Iraq, but he became so angry and disillusioned when the military did nothing for his family that he went AWOL.
He is now back in Chicago, where a counter-recruitment activist named Juan Torres, whose only son was killed in Afghanistan, is working on getting him discharged from the military. Torres works with a number of counter-recruitment groups, including Gold Star Families for Peace and Military Families Speak Out, but mostly he works on his own, speaking at churches and schools around the country. He estimates that in the past year, close to 200 students have told him that they have been offered green cards for enlisting, and he says he personally knows of "five or six illegal families who have kids without papers in Iraq." Torres talked one teenage girl into changing her mind just as she was about the sign the enlistment papers. He says that the recruiter told her, "Now you're in trouble, you and your family, you will have to leave." And Torres says he once asked a recruiter, the son of one of his friends, "How can you lie to the kids like that?" The recruiter told him, "Sorry, it's my job, and I don't want to go back to Iraq."
Despite the mounting evidence of these recruitment practices, the Pentagon denies that illegal immigrants are in the military. "If there are any," says Pentagon spokesman Joseph Burlas, "then they have fraudulently enlisted, and when they're caught, they are discharged."
That is what happened to Army Pvt Juan Escalante, whose illegal status was discovered while he was serving in Iraq. He was discharged and shipped home, and ICE began deportation proceedings against him and his parents, who had smuggled him into the United States from Mexico when he was four years old. However, Escalante's unit commander wrote a letter on his behalf, saying he had served with distinction, so ICE reversed its decision and accepted his citizenship application. The deportation case against his parents, who also have two U.S.-born children, is still pending.
Another illegal immigrant serving in Iraq, Jose Gutierrez, was not so lucky. He was one of the first members of the U.S. armed forces to die during the invasion. Gutierrez had made his way to this country from Guatemala in 1996, at the age of 15, to escape the violence perpetrated by the death squads, only to be killed in Iraq by friendly fire. When the Pentagon announced his death, it came in the form of a carefully managed PR campaign that included a posthumous award of citizenship for Gutierrez, presumably to show that if an illegal immigrant manages to enlist and make it to Iraq, he will be rewarded. However, Gutierrez remains the only illegal alien on the U.S. casualty rolls whose real hometown is listed, while others who die are reported to be from Boston or Los Angeles, or wherever a recruiter finds them. In New York City, according to counter-recruitment activist Melida Arredondo, whose young stepson was killed in Iraq, DEP recruiters instruct illegal immigrants to write "New York City" as their "home of record address" on the enlistment form, and to write "pending" for their Social Security number.
Why is all of this happening, when the enlistment and expedited naturalization of illegal immigrants serving in the armed forces is specifically authorized in U.S. law? An Executive Order signed by President Bush on July 3, 2002, provided for the "expedited naturalization for aliens and noncitizen nationals serving in an active-duty status in the Armed Forces of the United States during the period of the war against terrorists of global reach." Under this order, any noncitizen in the military can apply for expedited citizenship on his first day of active duty. Not only is this order still in effect, but it has been codified in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2006, that authorizes the enlistment of (1) nationals of the United States; (2) aliens who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence (green card); (3) residents of several former U.S. territories; and (4) any other person "if the Secretary of Defense determines that such enlistment is vital to the national interest."
With the law so clear on this issue, the treatment of illegal immigrants in the military, both by the Pentagon and by ICE, is difficult to understand. "Apparently," says Lt. Col. Margaret Stock, a nationally known immigration attorney and professor of military law at West Point, "nobody at the Pentagon reviewed the [regulations] on immigrants when the war started." She adds, "If the Pentagon has any immigration attorneys, I haven't met them."
Stock speculates that if the Pentagon is aware of the law, it might be "afraid there would be a political backlash" if the use of immigrant labor for the war were discussed openly. In a later e-mail, she added, "And by the way, the Pentagon has ALWAYS had the authority to recruit foreigners in wartime. ... The only thing that changed in January 2006 [when Bush signed the NDAA] was that Congress made it HARDER for the Pentagon to recruit foreigners who are not Lawful Permanent Residents. It used to be that ANYONE could join the military in wartime--even undocumented immigrants--but now the Service Secretaries have to find that an undocumented person's enlistment is 'in the vital interest' of the United States."
To illustrate her point, Stock noted that a section of the 2006 Immigration and Nationalization Law locates the naturalization of immigrants serving in Iraq firmly in the tradition of naturalizations "during World War I, World War II, Korean hostilities, Vietnam hostilities, [and] other periods of military hostilities." During these wars, citizenship was granted solely on the basis of three years of honorable service or honorable separation from service (discharge), whether or not the person ever lived in the United States."
"Recruiters trying to fill slots have historically pressed vulnerable people into service," says Dan Kesselbrenner, director of the National Immigration Project, a program of the National Lawyers Guild. "But for some people it's the only way they are ever going to get citizenship."
What recruiters do not tell their targets, however, is that the military itself has no authority to grant citizenship. It forwards their citizenship applications to ICE, which will then scrutinize them and their entire families for up to a year. Created under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 as the successor to the law enforcement arms of both the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the U.S. Customs Service, ICE has been tasked "to more effectively enforce our immigration and customs laws and protect the United States against terrorist attacks." ICE does this, as its website explains, "by targeting illegal immigrants: the people, money and materials that support terrorism and other criminal activities."
Recruiters also do not tell their targets that citizenship can be denied for the very same past criminal offenses that the military may have overlooked when admitting them--such as being in the country illegally. Nor do they tell recruits that citizenship can be denied for any kind of dishonorable behavior, which includes refusing to participate in combat. The immigrant law that provides for the naturalization of illegal immigrants in the military clearly states, "No person who ... was a conscientious objector who performed no military, air, or naval duty ... or refused to wear the uniform, shall be regarded as having served honorably or having been separated under honorable conditions." This means, according to Stock and other military law experts, that while applying for conscientious objector status is not, by itself, grounds for a dishonorable discharge, attempting to act on one's beliefs by refusing to fight, wear a uniform or carry a weapon, constitutes disobeying an order, which is dishonorable behavior.
As the war in Iraq drags on and recruiters step up their efforts to enlist high school students--even demanding the right to come into classrooms--teachers, parents, and students themselves are doing what they can to slow the rate of enlistment of young immigrants who believe that military service is their path to citizenship. But as long as American citizenship remains a kind of salvation myth for the Latino community, military recruiters will be able to exploit their longing for it.
The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill (S 1639), which failed to pass the Senate in June, proposed to give legal permanent residency to any "alien who has served in the uniformed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, has received an honorable discharge." In other words, illegal immigrants have been in the military all along, and the government was getting ready to admit it. Now, with the bill's defeat, they will be forced to remain hidden, and the sacrifices they have made for this country will continue to go unacknowledged.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I would like to thank Melida Arredondo for all of her assistance to this article.
Dick Cheney: "The Truth Is What I Say It Is."
By Paul Kiel - July 31, 2007, 4:52 PM
From Dick Cheney's interview tonight with Larry King:
Q In that regard, The New York Times -- which, as you said, is not your favorite -- reports it was you who dispatched Gonzales and Andy Card to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital in 2004 to push Ashcroft to certify the President's intelligence-gathering program. Was it you?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't recall -- first of all, I haven't seen the story. And I don't recall that I gave instructions to that effect.
Q That would be something you would recall.THE VICE PRESIDENT: I would think so. But certainly I was involved because I was a big advocate of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, and had been responsible and working with General Hayden and George Tenet to get it to the President for approval. By the time this occurred, it had already been approved about 12 times by the Department of Justice. There was nothing new about it.
Q So you didn't send them to get permission.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't recall that I was the one who sent them to the hospital.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney Tuesday dismissed congressional investigations into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys as "a bit of a witch hunt."
"First of all, there's no charge," Cheney said. "What's the allegation of wrongdoing here? Frankly, there isn't any."
"They keep rolling over rocks hoping they can find something, but there really hasn't been anything come up that would suggest there was any wrongdoing of any kind," Cheney told CNN's Larry King, adding that he did not feel that Bush senior political adviser Karl Rove need testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the matter.
"The president feels strongly -- and I do too, I agree with him -- that it's important for us to pass on these offices we occupy to our successors in as good a shape as we found them. And that means protecting and preserving the integrity of those processes," Cheney said.
The interview with Cheney aired Tuesday night on "Larry King Live."
Cheney added, "I think that an offer has been made" wherein senior officials would meet with members of Congress -- "but not under oath, not in public, no transcript, to discuss these issues."
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy announced last week that he would subpoena Rove.
When announcing the subpoena on the Senate floor, Leahy said "we've now reached a point where the accumulated evidence shows that political considerations factored into the unprecedented firing of at least nine U.S. attorneys last year. Testimony and documents showed that the list was compiled based on input from the highest political ranks in the White House, including Mr. Rove and Mr. [Scott] Jennings."
Jennings is deputy director of political affairs at the White House.
Leahy also subpoenaed former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former Rove aide Sara Taylor to testify about what they knew about the attorney firings. The White House has also resisted allowing them to testify.
In the interview with King, Cheney also backed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who has come under fire for his role in the firing of the U.S. attorneys. Gonzales also faces allegations that he perjured himself to Congress while testifying about a 2004 visit to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft while Ashcroft was hospitalized.
Gonzales testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that the 2004 meeting was not about a National Security Agency domestic surveillance program, a statement that was later contradicted by FBI head Robert Mueller.
A former government official familiar with the controversy told CNN on Sunday, however, that the 2004 meeting was about a related data mining program, which Gonzales views as a separate program but others view as part of the domestic surveillance program.
"The attorney general may have been splitting hairs here," the former government official said. "He may be able to say 'the dispute' was not about the NSA monitoring program per se. But I would not have said what he said."
Asked whether he stands by Gonzales, Cheney said, "I do. Al's a good man, a good friend, on a difficult assignment."
Asked whether he is troubled by "the appearance of him not telling the truth," the vice president would not comment. "Well, I don't want to get into the specifics with respect to his testimony and the questions that were asked," he said. "I know Al on a personal and professional basis and I hold him in high regard."
Cheney took a shot at Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York by saying her requests to the Defense Department for withdrawal plans for Iraq are "political."
"What we don't do is we don't get into the business of sharing operational plans -- we never have -- with the Congress," he said.
"We always have got a lot of contingencies, where we're going to start shedding those to respond to the political charges, such as those that Sen. Clinton made, I think would be unwise," Cheney continued.
Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines responded.
"Sen. Clinton asked a simple yet serious question regarding the contingency planning for the redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq," Reines said. "In response, she was politically attacked."
Cheney also defended his claim that he works not primarily in the executive but in the legislative branch of government and therefore is not bound by the rules governing members of the executive branch.
Constitutionally, the vice president serves as the Senate president, with the power to vote in the Senate to break a tie. But unless a tie is in the offing, vice presidents in recent times have rarely presided over the chamber and have instead taken on a larger policy role within the administration.
"I have a foot in both camps, if you will," Cheney told CNN.
"As vice president, obviously, I'm next in line to succeed the president if something happens to him. I have an office in the West Wing of the White House. I advise the president, I'm a member of the National Security Council. Those are all executive functions granted to me basically by the president.
"At the same time, I have responsibilities under the Constitution for certain things on Capitol Hill. In the Senate, I am president of the Senate, I am the presiding officer in the Senate, I cast tie-breaking votes there. My paycheck actually comes from the Senate."
Cheney had made the claim in an attempt to show that he is not bound by an executive order concerning executive branch agencies.
Last month, Cheney's office asserted that it was not required to comply with a presidential order requiring executive branch agencies to report to the National Archives how many documents they classify or declassify.
Cheney's assertion led a key House Democrat to try to strip executive branch funding for the vice president's office.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Yellow journalism, Bill O'Reilly's stock in trade, is more of a danger to an American democracy than any Republican in Washington, with the possible exception of Secret Robot President Dick Cheney. We cannot have honest debates over the desired future of America if that debate is sabotaged by the fundamental dishonesty of a fake "press", willing to manipulate or manufacture information in service to one party or another. Political blogs would likely not even exist in their present form if it had not been for the many outrages foisted upon us in these recent years by dissolving journalistic integrity and a compliant and slackjawed national pundit corps.
Monday, July 30, 2007
After Congressional Democrats called his bluff by threatening to withhold funding from his office, the White House was forced to roll back their rhetoric, claiming “that the rationale had been the view of the vice president’s lawyers, not Cheney himself.”
Mark Knoller: Are you part of the executive branch, sir?
Vice President Cheney: Well, the job of Vice President is an interesting one, because you have a foot in both the executive and the legislative branch. Obviously, I have an office in the West Wing of the White House, I am an adviser to the president, I sit as a member of the National Security Council. At the same time, under the constitution, I have legislative responsibilities. I’m actually paid by the Senate, not by the executive. […]
KNOLLER: But you are principally a part of the executive branch, are you not?
CHENEY: Well, I suppose you could argue it either way. The fact is I do work in both branches.
Cheney conceded that he was part of the executive branch during the two hours and five minutes he served as acting President two weeks ago while Bush was in surgery. Throughout the entire interview, however, he refused to say whether or not the Office of the Vice President itself was classified as part of the executive branch.
Cheney has been happy to treat the Office of the Vice President as part of the executive branch when it suits his political purposes:
- In 2001, the White House argued that a probe into Cheney’s energy task force “would unconstitutionally interfere with the functioning of the executive branch.”
- Cheney himself said that the probe concerned “meetings in the Executive Branch between the Vice President and other individuals.”
- On April 9, 2003, Cheney lauded a recent court ruling, stating, “I think it restored some of the legitimate authority of the executive branch, the president and the vice president, to be able to conduct their business.”
Now that the political tempest over Cheney’s exemption of his office has subsided a bit, the Vice President is back to claiming he is a branch of government all to himself — or he says it, “a unique creature” in constitutional government.
The full interview can be heard here.
MARK KNOLLER: Another issue, why did your office stop filing reports about your handling of classified material with the National Archives?
DICK CHENEY: Well, there’s an executive order that covers that was issued in 2003 that makes it clear that the vice president’s to be treated the same as the president. And neither one of them is to file those reports with the national archives.
KNOLLER: There’s no cover up?
CHENEY: Nothing to cover up.
KNOLLER: There was an aide in your office who said one of the reasons you weren’t abiding by that executive order is that you’re really not part of the executive branch. Are you part of the executive branch, sir?
CHENEY: Well, the job of Vice President is an interesting one, because you have a goot in both the executive and the legislative branch. Obviously, I have an office in the West Wing of the White House, I am an adviser to the president, I sit as a member of the National Security Council. At the same time, under the constitution, I have legislative responsibilities. I’m actually paid by the Senate, not by the executive. I sit as the President of the Senate, the presiding officer of the Senate. I cast tie breaking votes in the Senate. So the vice president is kind of a unique creature, if you will, in that you’ve got a foot in both branches.
KNOLLER: But you are principally a part of the executive branch, are you not?
CHENEY: Well, I suppose you could argue it either way. The fact is I do work in both branches. Under the Constitution, I’m assigned responsibilities in the legislative branch. Then the president obviously gives me responsibilities in the executive branch. And I perform both those functions, although I think it’d be fair to say I spent more time on executive matters than legislative matters.
KNOLLER: But two Saturdays ago, for two hours and five minutes, you were technically acting President of the United States when Mr. Bush invoked the 25th amendment. So that certainly made you a part of the executive branch.
Labels: Dick Cheney Branch
How Much Jail Time for Women Who Have Abortions?
Aug. 6, 2007 issue - Buried among prairie dogs and amateur animation shorts on YouTube is a curious little mini-documentary shot in front of an abortion clinic in Libertyville, Ill. The man behind the camera is asking demonstrators who want abortion criminalized what the penalty should be for a woman who has one nonetheless. You have rarely seen people look more gobsmacked. It's as though the guy has asked them to solve quadratic equations. Here are a range of responses: "I've never really thought about it." "I don't have an answer for that." "I don't know." "Just pray for them."
You have to hand it to the questioner; he struggles manfully. "Usually when things are illegal there's a penalty attached," he explains patiently. But he can't get a single person to be decisive about the crux of a matter they have been approaching with absolute certainty.
A new public-policy group called the National Institute for Reproductive Health wants to take this contradiction and make it the centerpiece of a national conversation, along with a slogan that stops people in their tracks: how much time should she do? If the Supreme Court decides abortion is not protected by a constitutional guarantee of privacy, the issue will revert to the states. If it goes to the states, some, perhaps many, will ban abortion. If abortion is made a crime, then surely the woman who has one is a criminal. But, boy, do the doctrinaire suddenly turn squirrelly at the prospect of throwing women in jail.
"They never connect the dots," says Jill June, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa. But her organization urged voters to do just that in the last gubernatorial election, in which the Republican contender believed abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape and incest. "We wanted him to tell the women of Iowa exactly how much time he expected them to serve in jail if they had an abortion," June recalled. Chet Culver, the Democrat who unabashedly favors legal abortion, won that race, proving that choice can be a winning issue if you force people to stop evading the hard facts. "How have we come this far in the debate and been oblivious to the logical ramifications of making abortion illegal?" June says.
Perhaps by ignoring or infantilizing women, turning them into "victims" of their own free will. State statutes that propose punishing only a physician suggest the woman was merely some addled bystander who happened to find herself in the wrong stirrups at the wrong time. Such a view seemed to be a vestige of the past until the Supreme Court handed down its most recent abortion decision upholding a federal prohibition on a specific procedure. Justice Anthony Kennedy, obviously feeling excessively paternal, argued that the ban protected women from themselves. "While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon," he wrote, "it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained."
Even with "no reliable data," he went on to conclude that "severe depression and loss of esteem can follow." (Apparently, no one has told Justice Kennedy about the severe depression and loss of esteem that can follow bearing and raising a baby you can't afford and didn't want.) Luckily, there still remains one justice on the court who has actually been pregnant, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg roared back with a dissent that called Kennedy's caveat about regret an "anti-abortion shibboleth" and his opinion a reflection of "ancient notions about women's place in the family and under the Constitution—ideas that have long since been discredited."
Those ancient notions undergird the refusal to confront the logical endpoint of criminalization. Lawmakers in a number of states have already passed or are considering statutes designed to outlaw abortion if Roe is overturned. But almost none hold the woman, the person who set the so-called crime in motion, accountable. Is the message that women are not to be held responsible for their actions? Or is it merely that those writing the laws understand that if women were going to jail, the vast majority of Americans would violently object? Watch the demonstrators in Libertyville try to worm their way out of the hypocrisy: It's murder, but she'll get her punishment from God. It's murder, but it depends on her state of mind. It's murder, but the penalty should be ... counseling?
The great thing about video is that you can see the mental wheels turning as these people realize that they somehow have overlooked something central while they were slinging certainties. Nearly 20 years ago, in a presidential debate, George Bush the elder was asked this very question, whether in making abortion illegal he would punish the woman who had one. "I haven't sorted out the penalties," he said lamely. Neither, it turns out, has anyone else. But there are only two logical choices: hold women accountable for a criminal act by sending them to prison, or refuse to criminalize the act in the first place. If you can't countenance the first, you have to accept the second. You can't have it both ways.
We invited White House officials and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend Alberto Gonzales said Wallace “We had no takers."
On Fox News Sunday this morning, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) refused to defend Attorney General Alberto Gonzales against accusations that he may have perjured himself before Congress. “It’s very damaging…we badly need an attorney general who is above any question,” said Gingrich. He continued:
Both the president and country are better served if the attorney general is a figure of competence. Sadly, the current attorney general is not seen as any of those things. I think it’s a liability for the president. More importantly, it’s a liability for the United States of America.
Later in the show, host Chris Wallace revealed that no conservative would willingly defend Gonzales on Fox. “By the way, we invited White House officials and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend Attorney General Gonzales,” said Wallace. “We had no takers.” Watch it:
The efforts of right-wingers to distance themselves from Gonzales have reached a fever pitch in the wake of his disastrous Senate testimony last week.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), appearing on ABC’s This Week, said “of course” Gonzales has a credibility problem. On MSNBC’s Hardball on Friday, Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT), the ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, squirmed when asked by host Chris Matthews if he thought Gonzales “is a good attorney general?” Cannon refused to answer the question, offering instead, “He’s a good guy.”
National Review Online’s Jonah Goldberg, a reliable partisan defender of the Bush administration, admitted on Thursday that the evidence against Gonzales is compelling. “I think Gonzales has long, long, long outserved whatever usefulness he might once have had,” wrote Goldberg. “And — hey — maybe he actually did perjure himself.”
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Conservative constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein, in an interview with The Chronicle's editorial page editor John Diaz, explains why he believes George W. Bush's foreign policies are making Americans less safe, and why the president and Vice President Dick Cheney should be impeached.
...it's utterly indispensable that the consitution be preserved and protected, because it is the scientific method for arriving at political truth and wisdom and for keeping the country in balance, avoiding the extremes and hubris that comes with unchecked power.Listen: 16:22 min
(Download Audio 7.86 MB)
Fein is currently the chairman of the American Freedom Agenda and formerly was associate deputy attorney general under the Reagan administration.
Look for his op-ed piece in the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle and on SFGate.